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We strongly advise patients who smoke to refrain from smoking for at least a week after surgery. Patients may also be advised to quit smoking for a while before the surgery takes place.

Ideally, we would prefer patients to quit for good as smoking can negatively impact oral health, especially interfering with the healing process. It increases the risk of oral infection and subsequent pain and discomfort. In the case of wisdom teeth removal, smoking after surgery can increase the risk of dry socket.

Smoking and its Effect on Healing

The chemicals in tobacco products can slow healing and could contaminate the wound. The toxins found in cigarette smoke can cause gum inflammation or irritate the gums or the surgery site. The nicotine in tobacco constricts the blood vessels, making it harder for the body to transport essential nutrients and oxygen to the surgery site, again slowing down healing. At the same time, these constricted blood vessels are less able to transport away harmful toxins. Quitting smoking eliminates the risk of tobacco products contaminating the wound and greatly aids healing.

An Increased Risk of Dry Socket

A blood clot begins to form in the empty socket soon after when a tooth is extracted. The blood clot helps to protect the exposed nerves and bone in the socket, aiding healing. If the blood clot is dislodged prematurely, it can result in the socket becoming infected and increasingly painful. Symptoms of dry socket include a foul taste, bad breath, and pain that may spread from the socket, affecting your neck, ear or eye. The tooth socket will appear to be an empty hole, and it might be possible to see the exposed bone. Dry socket is treatable as we can clean out the socket and place a medicated dressing, and we may also prescribe antibiotics and pain medication to help the socket heal.

Dry socket can affect people who don’t smoke, and it only occurs in a tiny percentage of cases. However, the action of sucking on a cigarette increases the risk of dislodging the blood clot. Quitting smoking for the duration of healing helps avoid this complication.

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